A Greenwood woman who police say led them on a chase in one of their own vehicles before crashing it into a gas well main last Tuesday night may face a laundry list of charges ranging from third-degree escape to battery.
According to authorities, while in custody in the back of a police SUV, Jessica Sterling, 23, of Greenwood squeezed through a partition into the driver’s seat then sped away, eventually flipping the vehicle after crashing through a gate and into a gas well on Long Ridge Road.
Sterling is accused of property theft, third-degree escape, second-degree battery, third-degree domestic battery, fleeing apprehension with injuries, fleeing by means of a vehicle, DWI first offense, DUI second offense, disorderly conduct, first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree criminal mischief, leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, two reckless driving counts and wearing no seat belt.
She is in custody at the Sebastian County jail.
Greenwood Police Chief Will Dawson said officers initially responded to a disturbance call on Dogwood Street around 7 p.m.
"The victim there alleged that the other party had struck a car in the parking lot and was intoxicated," Dawson said. "They obviously had a dispute there."
While the officer was interviewing the victim, Dawson said, Sterling returned.
"She saw police, backed out and attempted to get away," Dawson said. "She drove a short distance and ran through a fence at the end of the road. She tried to flee out of the car there."
Sterling was taken into custody and placed into the back of the police vehicle, a 2013 Chevy Tahoe.
"While they’re trying to investigate the accident scene, they hear her kicking the side glass and see her kicking the side glass," Dawson said. "A county deputy opened up the door, and she had moved the cuffs up to the front of her, and (she) jumped out and head-butted him."
This time, Sterling was placed not only in handcuffs behind her, but leg irons and a "hobble," Dawson said.
"At some point she was able to get the hobble off, get the cuffs back in front of her and slide open the glass partition, get to the front and take off in the car," Dawson said.
Authorities were led on a chase through Greenwood that ended when Sterling crashed through a gate on private property.
"She ultimately hit a gas well main and flipped the car," Dawson said. "When officers rushed up to check on her, she was attempting to remove the assault rifle that was in the gun lock. They struggled getting her out, eventually having to Tase her and pull her from the car."
Dawson said emergency responders deemed Sterling to be OK. Long Ridge Road was shut down for about three hours while the gas leak was contained, Dawson said.
As a result of the incident, it’s estimated $40,000-plus worth of damage was caused, including $26,000 for the totaled police vehicle, Dawson said.
The chief said it remained unclear how the suspect squeezed through the partition, estimated at 12-inches wide.
"She’s 5 foot 2 inches, 110 pounds," Dawson said. "It would be extremely difficult for any of us to get through that open space. I’m really not sure how she did even at that size."